PROVIDENCE — Providence police have arrested a man who they say shot at a patrolman who was responding to a call about a domestic disturbance in the Valley neighborhood early Wednesday morning.
Luis Roman, 31, was standing shirtless in the middle of Canton Street holding a high-powered assault rifle when the officer turned onto the street, said Commander Thomas Verdi. Roman fired multiple rounds at the officer, hitting the hood of the cruiser and lodging under the driver’s side windshield, Verdi said. Stray bullets also struck businesses at the end of the street.
The officer didn’t have time to return fire — he gunned the cruiser backwards across Chalkstone Avenue and called for more backup, Verdi said.
“That Providence police officer is lucky to be alive,” Verdi said.
The sound of gunfire woke up City Councilwoman Jo-Ann Ryan, who lives down the street and had attended a lengthy emergency meeting of the City Council on Tuesday night about the recent spate of shootings throughout the city.
“It was frightening, terrifying,” Ryan said Wednesday afternoon. “It was as loud as if they were right outside my house.”
She said she went outside and saw a swarm of police officers rushing to her street. The district commander told her what was going on. Ryan said that she and her neighbors were told to stay indoors, as the Providence police special-response team and a state police armored vehicle were used to evacuate the residents of 108 Canton St., where Roman was believed to be hiding.
“To see a SWAT team in your neighborhood, in a quiet neighborhood, and on a street I grew up on, it’s quite shocking,” Ryan said.
The police got Roman’s girlfriend and her 11-month-old daughter out of the house, along with a woman and her three-year-old child on the first floor and three adults living on the third floor, Verdi said. The police also found a high-powered rifle inside the house, he said.
Roman had slipped away, but police tracked him down at his mother’s apartment on Sears Avenue just before 9 a.m., where he surrendered without incident. He is expected to be arraigned Thursday morning at District Court on multiple felonies.
Crime scene tape was strung up at either end of the block, including along the home Ryan has lived in for 32 years.
“It was traumatic for the entire neighborhood,” Ryan said. “It’s a quaint community, people have lived there for generations and everyone knows each other.”
She took photos of the cruiser with the bullet holes. “I saw the shots in the vehicle and I couldn’t believe it,” Ryan said. “As Commander Verdi said, six inches higher and three inches to the left, [the bullet] would have hit the officer in the chest.”
The officer, a seven-year veteran, has not been identified. Verdi said the department’s peer support team was meeting with him Wednesday.
Police were familiar with Roman, because they’d arrested him on drugs and firearms charges over the past decade. The gun charges were mostly dismissed by judges, according to court records.
Mayor Jorge O. Elorza commended the officers’ bravery.
“This is an example of the risks that our officers face every day and we are immensely grateful to them for helping to keep our community safe,” Elorza tweeted. “Thanks to our officers, the suspect was apprehended and no one was injured. Thank you, @ProvidenceRIPD!”
I want to commend the Providence Police Department for their bravery and prompt response this morning to a domestic violence call that resulted in shots being fired at an officer.— Jorge Elorza (@Jorge_Elorza) August 11, 2021
Police Chief Hugh T. Clements Jr. told the council members Tuesday night that police have seized 143 guns so far this year — about a hundred more than they usually seize by this time of the year. “It’s incredible the firepower out there, and incredible what men and women of department are exposed to,” he said.
And, Clements added, the police have arrested people with guns — even those who’ve pointed firearms at officers — without firing a shot.
“There have been 639 shell casings picked up in city, but not from Providence police officers,” he said.
The police did not fire their weapons during the encounter on Canton Street or Sears Avenue either, Verdi said.
Ryan said she found that remarkable. “I could not believe how close the bullets came to hurting the officer. He was very lucky,” she said. “This highlights the risk they face every day.”